Sunday, January 30, 2005

THIS Time We Mean It! No, Seriously...

A few weeks ago I wrote a futuristic article in which the imaginary Christian Independent party worked to form coalition bills with both Republicans & Democrats. I received several questions about that post from folks who wanted to know why Christians would want to form their own party. I don’t know for sure that Christians would or should want to form their own party, but what I do know is that currently we have very little “political capital”, to borrow a phrase from our commander in chief.

Why do I say that? Didn’t 4,000,000 Evangelicals who hadn't voted in 2000 just turn out in November to re-elect the president? Yes, they did… And now, those same Evangelicals who claimed such exuberant victory on November 3rd are saying this:

We couldn't help but notice the contrast between how the President is approaching the difficult issue of social security privatization, where the public is deeply divided, and the marriage issue, where public opinion is overwhelmingly on his side. … Is he prepared to spend significant political capital on privatization but reluctant to devote the same energy to preserving traditional marriage? If so, it would create outrage with countless voters who stood with him just a few weeks ago, including an unprecedented number of African-Americans, Latinos and Catholics who broke with tradition and supported the President solely because of this issue.

This quote is from a confidential letter that the Arlington Group sent to the White House, which was then leaked to the press. The part of this quote that I really want to draw your attention to is the threat that if Mr Bush fails to voice strong support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, “it would create outrage with countless [Christian] voters who stood with him just a few weeks ago”.

To put it bluntly, so what? The GOP is supposed to fear that Christians are now going to go storming to the other side of aisle to support the Democrats? Conservative Christians have spent the last two decades declaring their unwavering support for the GOP; Republicans have no fears that they might lose Christian voters.

So this is what we can continue to expect: Every election cycle conservative Christians will come up the year’s most important issue (prayer in schools, abortion, marriage, etc.), the GOP will give them plenty of lip service while asking them to rally their congregations, and then after the election you’ll hear something like Mr Bush’s recent comment that “nothing will happen” for now.

And if you don’t think that this has been a pattern of behavior, check out this quote from Dr James Dobson of Focus on the Family in reaction to Mr Bush's new complacence with the Defense of Marriage Act:

If Republicans do what they've done in the past, which is say, 'Thanks so much for putting us in power: now we don't want to talk to you any more', they will pay a serious price.

Really? Why should the GOP take Christians seriously this time?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Outting a Sea Sponge

Over the weekend immediately following the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001, the We Are Family Foundation was formed & brought 200 celebrities together to re-record the song "We Are Family" in an attempt to begin the healing process. Six months later, a music video starring 100 children's television characters was filmed to bring this healing message to kids.

Dr James Dobson of Focus on the Family has issued a warning for parents that this video is published by an organization "that's determined to promote the acceptance of homosexuality among our nation's youth". That is a pretty strong statement about a video that makes no mention of sexuality, homosexuality, "two mommies", etc. So what does Dr Dobson object to? Apparently, to this "Tolerance Pledge", found on WAFF's website:
Tolerance is a personal decision that comes from a belief that every person is a treasure. I believe that America's diversity is its strength. I also recognize that ignorance, insensitivity and bigotry can turn that diversity into a source of prejudice and discrimination.

To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own.

The We Are Family Foundation asks, as a part of the post-9/11 healing process, that we reach deep enough inside ourselves to find a basic respect for the humanity of others. Dr Dobson apparently believes that such a basic respect is so insidious that he's spoken out against this video and singled out SpongeBob SquarePants in the process. And now groups comprising the Christian Right have established something of a track record of attacking asexual cartoon characters for their apparent "pro-gay" agendas. (Remember that purple Teletubby?)

Although I respect Dr Dobson's right to his beliefs on homosexuality, I think his reaction to this particular video is entirely disproportionate. I also think it is unfortunate that he believes that it is un-Christian to have a basic respect for those we may disagree with, because attitudes like that that led to the tragic murder of Matthew Shepherd.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Why Fight a T-Rex?

Early Christians used the now-ubiquitous fish symbol to identify themselves to each other during the time of Roman persecution. One man would trace an arc in the ground with his foot, and it became clear that both men were Christian if the other finished the fish by tracing a second arc.

Fast forward a couple thousand years and there are fish on millions of cars all over the United States, but the meaning of the fish has apparently changed. Now the fish seems to mean that the driver believes in Creationism and we’ve launched an all-out “bumper war” against evolution. Darwinists came up with their own Darwin fish, and we came up with a Truth fish that was big enough to eat their Darwin fish. Then they fought back with a

Take a really good look at that T-Rex emblem if you haven’t already. That dinosaur is actually eating our fish. They think they’ve proven that Christianity is a myth because they have dinosaurs. We’ve set up an argument that says that one and only one of the following can be true: (1) God created the earth in seven days, and there were no dinosaurs involved; or (2) Darwin was right, and there is no God. This seems to be exactly the fear of the Cobb County school board in Georgia, except the war there is over textbooks instead of bumper decals.

Why are we fighting this fight? If I weren’t so loathe to participate in this war altogether, I’d put a Jesus fish and a Darwin fish on my car. The two beliefs do not have to be mutually exclusive, and we are creating barriers to people learning about our faith. We are alienating nonbelievers because of the views that some of us hold about Creation before we can even get to the important part: the Good News about Jesus Christ!

In the New Testament, Jesus says that we need to believe & trust in him in order to be saved; he did not say there would be a Creation litmus test at the gates of Heaven. Let’s focus on the important stuff and save the details for spirited debate with other believers.

Democrats, Christian Independents Reach Compromise

February 10, 2019
WASHINTON, D.C.— Christian Independents claim another victory as they have reached a compromise on their coalition bill with Democrats for this legislative season. The Christian Independents’ biggest priority for the bill was funding HIV vaccinations for preschool-aged children in low-income families. In turn, the Christian Independents have agreed to support the Democrats’ top priority of further reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States over the next 12 years.

Senate Leader Loretta Beal, CI-Nevada, said, “We promised Christian voters in our campaigns last year that we would finally help the most vulnerable victims of this terrible disease, and voters responded by entrusting us with an unprecedented 16 senate seats. Working with Democratic leadership on this issue has been very productive, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s vote.”

After last November’s election, Republicans hold 43 senate seats, the Democrats 41, the Christian Independents 16. As a result, both of the major parties have agreed to work on coalition bills with the Christian Independents to get their top legislative priorities passed. Republicans and Christian Independents begin working on their coalition bill in two weeks.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Noah's wife was Joan of Arc

You need to log in to the LA Times website to read the article linked above, but it's worth the effort. The article is entitled "A Nation of Faith and Religious Illiterates" and is written by Stephen Prothero, who is Chairman of the Department of Religion and Director of the Graduate Division of Religious and Theological Studies at Boston University.

This article provides some compelling commentary on America's brand of Christianity.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Proverbs 6:16-19

I read a letter to the editor in the Citizen Times today that mentioned this scripture for the benefit of the Christians who helped to re-elect our president:

(Proverbs 6:16-19 ) There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

I've discussed my views on hate in an earlier post, but I thought this letter served as an interesting reminder that there are things that are detestable to God besides those we hear about most often from some vocal sects.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

The link above will take you to the first in a series of articles published by the Center for American Progress as a part of its Faith and Progressive Policy initiative. The author, Stephen Ruckman, explores some of the tensions between the religious & political spheres. It definitely provides a good message that there is room for Liberals & and Christians to work together and that neither group needs to fear the other.

Check it out & let me know what you think!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

And then there's the other son...

I originally started writing this post as a response to a great comment from my last post, but then I decided it was so important an issue that I’d write it as an entire post. So this is where things become wonderfully complex: I am not a secular Liberal!

Think about the many conversations you’ve participated in that went something like this:
“Let me get this straight, you think you’re going to Heaven just because you believe in Jesus?”

“That’s right.”

“And you don’t have to do anything? You’re just saved by the grace of God if you believe in Jesus?”


“So you’re telling me that you could be a sinner you’re entire life and then suddenly believe in Jesus, and you’re saved?”


“But…that’s not fair!”
It’s interesting, isn’t it? Jesus doesn’t treat us fairly; rather, he died on the cross to pay the price for our sins. All we have to do is believe and trust in him. Can you imagine if he did treat us fairly? I shudder to even think about it…

We’ve been given this amazing gift, and even we Christians still want to be treated fairly. There is a story in the New Testament that clearly illustrates this desperate desire of ours: the
Prodigal Son. Usually when people talk about this story, they concentrate on the son who leaves & returns; but I want to focus on the son who stayed with his father. When the prodigal son returns from having wasted his share of the father’s fortune, the son who stayed cannot believe that their father would throw the prodigal son a party to celebrate & welcome his return. In fact, the son who stayed becomes so angry that he refuses to go into the party at all. After all, this isn’t fair! The prodigal son doesn’t deserve a party!

So, to wrap this back around to my last post about the Christian Coalition: “fairness” is a perfectly legitimate reason for secular conservatives to argue that what’s theirs is theirs and that they shouldn’t have to share anything of theirs with those who don’t deserve it. But Christian? I still don’t see it. Jesus never promised us fair (and thank God for that!), so I still don’t understand how fighting for tax cuts for the wealthiest among us is one of the CC’s top seven goals for this year. It may not be fair to share our wealth with the poor and the needy, but I believe it’s what Jesus would have us do.

I welcome your comments.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Christian Issues?

The link above will take you to an article that lists the Christian Coalition's top seven priorities for 2005. About half of them are socially conservative issues that didn't really surprise me. (Several of them actually angered me, but they didn't surprise me.) Two of them absolutely blew my mind.

The first is the CC's goal of "making permanent the 2001 federal tax cuts including the marriage penalty tax cut and increase in the child tax credit". The second is its goal of "passing reform of the Social Security program including optional private accounts". I am really confused as to how these are Christian issues. They are definitely fiscally conservative issues, but Christian?

And I'm not trying to say that either of those goals is particularly anti-Christian, but why do they need to be goals of "America's largest Christian grassroots organization" in the first place? Why is it necessarily a Christian aim to reduce this country's revenue by protecting the income of the absolute wealthiest? Why is it necessarily Christian to force change to the safety net that protects this nation's elderly this year, when the program is still solvent for decades to come? Why are these two tax goals so important to the Christian Coalition that they have made the Top Seven list for 2005?

I can find two references to the actual paying of taxes in the new testament: Matthew 17:24-27 and Matthew 22:15-22. And in both of these, Jesus seems to shrug and say, "Well, pay your taxes."

So what's my point? Well, I think it is this: if as a fiscal conservative you believe that either or both of those goals ought to be accomplished this year -- great; however, if you believe those two goals are worthy of our vote because you believe in Christ, I'd love to know why. (Seriously -- please post!) I think I've touched on this before, but if you vote based on what your faith tells you to do, I urge you not to vote for one party's agenda part and parcel because one Christian lobby tells you it's the Christian thing to do.